Saturday, July 7, 2007

Lambs among Wolves

(14th Sunday in Ordinary Time, C)

We continue today, friends, on the journey we began last week. Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem, and he sends his disciples ahead of him to proclaim the arrival of the kingdom of God. This is us, brothers and sisters! In our hearing of this gospel, we too are sent by the Lord to proclaim his kingdom to all who have ears to hear. This is our call, this is our vocation, and this is our God-given mission.

And as the Lord sends us out as the laborers for the great harvest of God’s kingdom, well, there’s good news…and there’s challenging news.

Let’s take the good news first. For one thing, this mission we have all received requires no more preparation or equipment than each of us already has. Jesus sends his disciples forth with nothing—no money, no bag. All they needed was the grace of God and the path that the Spirit of God would show them. And it’s the same with us. In order to follow the Lord we don’t need a degree, or an office, or a religious habit. All anyone needs is a little desire to be faithful to God. Nothing more. In fact, we are always sent with nothing so that we might possess God alone and depend only on him for everything we need. Rejoice then! You already have everything you need to live a life of perfect discipleship in Christ.

And God promises every good thing to those who follow him and let themselves be sent to proclaim his kingdom. As the prophet Isaiah proclaims in the first reading today, God “will spread prosperity over Jerusalem like a river, and the wealth of the nations like an overflowing torrent.” And this promise is ours as the heirs of all the promises God made to his people in the old covenant—as Paul says in the second reading today, we are the “Israel of God;” we who believe in Jesus as the Son of God are the New Jerusalem. And as we gather here as God’s people, as the “Israel of God” and as the New Jerusalem growing in the world, the prosperity of God’s grace flows over us in this Eucharist—the Precious Blood of Christ poured out in the new and eternal covenant.

So that’s the good news in our call to be disciples: we have all we need for the journey, and God will bless us abundantly in it. But there is also challenging news.

As Jesus himself admits in today’s gospel, sometimes people don’t want to hear our message. Sometimes we and our message of peace will not be received. And we all know this. The world around us, so driven by competition and greed, often does not want to hear the gospel. Dominated by the fear of terrorism and the crime of pre-emptive war, they don’t want to hear about the dignity of the human being. Committed to a culture of convenience and abortion, they don’t want to hear about the gospel of life that we Christians proclaim.

And we can all expect to experience difficulty, rejection, misunderstanding and all kinds of trouble as we fulfill our mission as disciples who proclaim the kingdom of God.

St. Paul was no stranger to this. In many places he catalogues the sufferings he endured for the sake of the Gospel: beatings, imprisonments, shipwrecks. And he points to what he endured in the second reading today when he says, “let no one make troubles for me, for I bear the marks of Jesus on my body.”

The word translated “marks” is stigmata. And we all know about the saints who had the stigmata like St. Francis or Padre Pio. They shared in the wounds of Christ. And yet Paul points out to us today that the sufferings he endured for the sake of Gospel mark him out as belonging to Jesus Christ.

And again, it is the same with us. Every suffering, every rejection, every misunderstanding that we suffer in our effort to follow the Lord and to proclaim his kingdom—these are all way in which we share in the very sufferings of Christ. In this Eucharist we receive the Body of Christ and we become what we receive. Our sufferings become his, and his become ours. Everything difficult we go through marks us for Jesus as our stigmata, our sharing in the sufferings of Christ. When we take up our cross, the Lord makes it his own.

And we know by faith that within the cross is the path to the new life of the Resurrection—a new heaven and new earth. Let us allow ourselves to be sent on our journey toward them today.

1 comment:

Elizabeth Mahlou said...

I came here because I wanted to spend time with homilies, having inadvertently missed Mass this evening because I needed to help someone, and the timing was wrong. (I was at Mass yesterday and will be there tomorrow, so I probably should not feel as guilty about it as I do -- it is not so much guilt as a sense of a missed opportunity; the Eucharist is very special to me.) Anyway, I found more than I had hoped for in your homily. I am going to some place very dangerous soon for nearly a month, and I hope that my coming in peace will be understood, but it may not be. Your homily is a good reminder that if something happens, I won't be the first to have it happen, and that no matter what happens, God is with us. (I'm counting on that big time!!)

Have a happy Fourth!